Most of the time, the embarrassment of riches that is the news media feels like a pretty good thing, right?
Thanks to Twitter and cable news and local newspapers and long-form journalism, there’s basically no excuse for not being in the know about what’s happening in the world around us (for better or worse!), and it’s pretty cool that we have access to so much information in so many forms.
There is, however, a flip side to every coin… and you know as well as we do that the 24-hour media cycle — along with our overstuffed email inboxes and ever-buzzing phones —can cause some serious overwhelm. Information overload is real, bulldoggers! Author and pscyhology professor Daniel Levitin told Forbes that, according to one calculation, we’ve created more information in the last ten years alone than in all of human history before that. Crazy, huh? No wonder we have trouble focusing!
If TMI is affecting your life, you’re definitely not the only one, because we’re right there with ya. Here are a few tips to help all of us combat the issue and keep us focused and in the moment.
1. Clear your head.
Everyone has their own way of doing this, but productivity guru David Allen recommends putting pen to paper and physically writing down every last thing that’s making you feel overwhelmed. If that method doesn’t sound like something that will work for you, try taking a walk or getting into an intense online flow instead. Reducing the “noise” that you already have in your brain should make it a lot easier to sort through all of the new information that’s coming in.
2. Minimize multitasking.
As we researched this idea of information overload, we found what felt like constant warnings against the dangers of trying to do too many things at once. We know you can multitask (duh, you’re a superstar), but maybe you shouldn’t, because doing so just makes it even harder for your brain to thoughtfully take in new info. According to research by Stanford neuroscientist Russ Poldrack, people who try to study and watch TV simultaneously, for example, will experience problems with processing the different types of information they’re absorbing in the proper parts of their brain… and we want every part of your brain working at its maximum capacity!
3. figure out your filters.
Establish systems around the various types of informational overload that you encounter on a daily basis. Set up email folders that will help minimize the sense of urgency around every. last. message. that hits your inbox — and go ahead and unsubscribe to all those random accounts that are sending you coupons you’ll never use! If most of your sense of overwhelm is coming from the news, create boundaries around when and what you watch, listen to, and read. Commit to watching cable news only at night or to scrolling through Twitter just twice a day. Filters like this will go a long way toward combating the TMI issue.
What sources do you trust and care about the most? Identifying your information priorities can help you establish those handy aforementioned filters. Bonus points if you can prioritize content creators and media sources that offer multiple viewpoints. Who wants to live in an echo chamber?
If you really can’t take all the information anymore, turn off the TV and go on a social media hiatus. We’re all for you taking advantage of all the resources out there so you can be informed and confident, but if it’s messing with your mental health, it’s OK to give yourself permission to take a little break. Twitter and Facebook and cable news and newspapers and everything else will still be there when you get back!
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Overwhelm image: Abigail Keenan/Unsplash